Crawley’s Labour councillors have called on the Government to pay back money illegally taken from local residents. Following an admission by the Department for Work and Pensions that the Bedroom Tax has been levied on a number of residents who were legally protected under Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Regulations (2006), Peter Lamb and Chris Oxlade have called on the Government to return the money illegally taken from local residents.
Since the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, many Crawley residents, often in work, have been put in an impossible situation: downsize to properties which do not exist in the town or pay money they do not have. As a result, hundreds of people now find themselves in rent arrears and facing eviction.
Quite apart from the moral implications of making people homeless, this latest Government blunder means some of those affected should have legally never been charged in the first place.
While the DWP has issued guidance that these households are not to be charged the Bedroom Tax from now until they get a chance to change the law, their guidance does not commit to paying back residents the money the Government took off them illegally. Given that these are some of the poorest households in the town, Crawley’s Labour councillors are calling on the Government to pay back the money they owe as a matter of priority.
Referring to the administrative error Cllr Lamb said:
“It’s almost beyond belief that the Government didn’t think to check their own regulations before launching into this damaging policy. Many families have just been through Christmas with the threat of eviction looming over them, only to discover the Government was breaking the law by charging them in the first place.”
In considering the Government’s next steps Cllr Oxlade commented:
“What’s important now is that the Government quickly repays the money they took off Crawley residents illegally. The UK is experiencing a cost of living crisis and people can’t afford to lose more money due to Government errors. We need our MPs to get a grip and ensure the Government does the right thing here.”
Ed Miliband has pledged that if Labour are elected into Government in 2015 the party will remove the Bedroom Tax as one of the first acts of office.